By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High court declines infant death case
Placeholder Image
By Kevin Murphy

For the Times

MADISON - A Green County man's five-year effort to reverse a homicide conviction for killing his infant son apparently ended this month as the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a request to hear the case.

Jurors found Casey J. Shelton, 38, guilty of first-degree reckless homicide in January 2009, and eight months later Circuit Judge James Beer sentenced Shelton to 40 years in prison.

Since then, Shelton's attorneys have in two unsuccessful attempts contested many aspects of the trial at which he was found guilty of causing the death of 2-month-old Christopher Shelton on Feb. 28, 2007.

Last week the state's high court declined to take the case without explanation.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffery Kohl and State Public Defender Martha Askins, who tried the case and handled the appeal, respectively, did not return phone calls for comment before deadline.

Several issues on appeal dealt with admitting testimony about Shelton's alleged violence toward his twin sons, Christopher and Charles, his step son, and his wife, Amy Uptegraw. Also, his threat to kill Amy's parents while en route to the hospital if they talked to authorities about the Christopher's death.

Beer should have excluded testimony that Shelton put rags in the mouths and put blankets over the boys' heads several times when they cried. The incidents were not similar to the head injury that killed Christopher, but the error was harmless given the strength of the other evidence, the District IV Court of Appeals concluded in an opinion issued in December.

Jurors properly heard that two days before Christopher died, Shelton threw Charles on the floor for vomiting. The appeals court upheld Beer's allowing the testimony finding that it showed Shelton's obsession with cleanliness and order, which was the motive the prosecution alleged in the case.

Shelton unsuccessfully contended on appeal that jurors should have heard that authorities removed other children from the care of Amy Uptegraw's parents two weeks after the trial based on abuse allegations. The appeals court refused to consider the argument because the alleged event occurred after trial and was not properly raised on appeal.

In hopes of getting a new trial, Askins alleged Shelton's trial attorney, Katherine Findley, should have objected to the use of a doll by an expert witness to show potential ways how Christopher could have been injured. Also, the trial should have been moved due to pretrial publicity, and Findley should have sought to remove a number of jurors.

All claims that Findley was an ineffective attorney were dismissed either for not being raised earlier or were raised and previously denied.

Regardless of the issues Shelton's attorney raised on appeal, the appeals court in an opinion issued in May concluded that there was enough evidence at trial to support the jury's guilty verdict.

"(T)he victim suffered a fatal brain injury while in the exclusive care of Shelton - coupled with evidence that Shelton had a plausible motive for inflicting violence on the child and that Shelton had threatened on the way to the hospital to kill the family of the victim's mother if she said anything - provided (more than enough circumstantial evidence for the jury to infer) that Shelton had recklessly caused his son's death."